The curriculum approach selected by an educator can influence the overall quality of learning. While concentrating on principles of early childhood education, much attention should be paid to selecting approaches that are most effective to address children’s needs and that are supported by theoretical perspectives, as it is stated according to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). Thus, children can learn while interacting and observing the world around them (Council of Australian Governments, 2010).
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They can also learn certain concepts and principles while participating in different types of activities. The success of the teaching practice depends on the approach followed by a teacher. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to discuss curriculum approaches, teaching strategies, and classroom practices that can be used to educate children, as well as describe theories that can explain the choice of these approaches. It is also important to analyze the consequences of such strategies for children, appraise the current approach, and propose a personal development plan to address weaknesses in the teacher’s method.
Curriculum Approaches, Teaching Strategies, and Classroom Practices
A variety of curriculum approaches can be used by teachers to organize a teaching-learning process and address the philosophy of an educator, as well as the needs of students. The choice of a certain curriculum approach determines the focus on specific teaching strategies and classroom practices to guarantee the adherence to the principles of this or that curriculum (Arthur, Beecher, & Death, 2014). Three curriculum approaches that should be discussed in detail concerning the associated strategies and practices are the child-centered approach, the integrated approach, and the inclusive approach because they can be applied by an educator as a bundle to achieve certain learning goals.
While working with children, it is important to refer to the principles of the child-centered approach. Early childhood education is based on the idea that children should learn in a positive environment with the help of such means as interaction and play. As a result, the focus is on a child and his or her needs (Arthur et al., 2014). The child-centered approach allows for concentrating on students’ needs, interests, abilities, and experiences. Teaching strategies that are used about this approach are group work, play, demonstration, and discussion.
Therefore, classroom practices can include the pre-lesson discussion of a daily plan in the form of a game, the selection of lesson activities with a focus on children’s moods, and the choice of a book for reading according to students’ interests. The accentuated students’ motivation and the focus on their emotions play key roles in this approach. For example, the Language Arts (English) lesson that is organized following these principles can include such acts as the discussion of the finished books in the form of a game. Children can choose the next book to read among the proposed ones, they can work with visual materials, and they can improve their vocabulary while discussing the book with each other.
In addition to the child-centered approach, it is also important to apply the integrated approach. It is significant for pre-school and primary school children to focus on links between objects and processes, and the use of thematic blocks or the focus on interdisciplinary connections are effective to be utilized in early childhood education (Arthur et al., 2014). Thus, the integrated approach is based on such teaching strategies as the demonstration, modeling, explanation, and the use of experiments among others. As a result, the associated classroom practices include the work with different materials to draw or create an object to illustrate discussions and the use of music, dancing, and games in Arts or Humanities lessons among other practices. For instance, the lesson in Language Arts that is based on the integrated approach includes the use of drawing materials to provide illustrations for the read stories, the enactment of passages, and the guided work on a poster while utilizing the web materials.
One more approach to be used in a class with young children is the inclusive approach. According to the principles of this approach, all children should have an opportunity to develop their skills and abilities in a positive inclusive environment of a classroom. As a result, the focus is on respecting diversity, and students with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, as well as students with special needs and different learning styles are involved in a teaching-learning process as a class (Arthur et al., 2014). Teaching strategies that are used to promote the work and cooperation of diverse students are group work, teamwork, the work on adjusted assignments, discussions, and the use of different types of materials (PowerPoint presentations, videos, tables, audio records, and objects).
Classroom practices include the preparation and distribution of materials that are appropriate for students with different needs and learning styles and the organization of the pair and group work for English learners among other practices (Bentley-Williams & Morgan, 2013). For example, the class includes one visually impaired child, one English learner, and one child with learning difficulties. The focus on the inclusive approach means that all these children will be provided with specific materials that are suitable for their needs and levels (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2014a). Still, they will also be involved in the class and group work to the extent appropriate for the concrete case to guarantee their inclusion and effective interaction with other students.
Theories and Beliefs to Support Approaches and Strategies
According to the EYLF, a range of theories can support specific strategies and approaches to the development of young children (Council of Australian Governments, 2010). The selection of the child-centered, integrative, and inclusive curriculum approaches as key ones to organize a teaching-learning process is based on adopting the theoretical framework that includes developmental, socio-cultural, and socio-behavioral theories (Arthur et al., 2014). Although researchers also determine critical and post-structuralist theories, the selected philosophies are most effective to support the educator’s actions and used strategies.
According to the principles of developmental theories, each child develops following a certain pattern, and at each stage, he or she has some milestones or changes to overcome. The focus on different stages to accentuate developmental changes is typical of Piaget’s theory that is used to support the child-centered approach in the teaching practice (Arthur et al., 2014). At many stages of their development, children have various needs, demonstrate different capacities, and can develop only certain skills. Therefore, this theory supports the child-centered approach and the choice of age-appropriate teaching strategies and activities. These activities are known as developmentally appropriate practices that include the play and group work, as it is proposed by Piaget (Arthur et al., 2014). The choice of strategies and practices depends on the child’s age and developmental stage to correlate his or her needs and the way of presenting the material to learn.
Although developmental theories are effective to support the use of the child-centered approach in teaching, the problem is in the fact that some children do not demonstrate certain results or changes at different stages because of the impact of a variety of other factors, including society and culture. Socio-cultural theories are important to explain how the students’ environment can influence their learning and acquisition of skills. Following Vygotsky’s theory, it is possible to state that children learn while being influenced by their social environment (Arthur et al., 2014).
It is important for them to learn, referring to other people as models or while communicating with them. The high role of interactions in children’s learning explains the focus on the inclusive approach in the teaching practice. Diverse children need to be included in one supportive environment to learn from each other and develop their skills (Kemp, Kishida, Carter, & Sweller, 2013). Therefore, this theory explains the focus on the work in pairs, group work, and teamwork while creating an inclusive environment. Also, this approach allows children to interact freely and learn from each other.
This group of theories is important to support both child-centered and integrated approaches. Thus, according to these theories, children learn from the environment that can form their behaviors. Following Skinner, the learning process and development of certain behaviors can be influenced by the use of reinforcers that can be presented as rewards or punishment (Arthur et al., 2014). This theory supports the child-centered and integrated approaches concerning the fact that rewards stimulate children’s motivation as they develop behaviors, and they also stimulate the children’s interest in certain activities, as it is in a case of integrated lessons. Therefore, teaching strategies and practices are selected to influence children and achieve the desired behavior or development of a certain skill. In this context, lessons based on the idea of integration are often full of references to role models and patterns to follow to demonstrate the expected behavior.
Consequences for Children’s Learning
The application of various curriculum approaches and associated strategies and practices can have different effects on children’s learning, development, and experiences. While applying practices related to the child-centered approach, it is possible to expect that children learn following the age-appropriate pace and to participate in developmentally appropriate activities (Arthur et al., 2014). As a result, pressure and stress are minimal, and it is possible to expect a high level of motivation regarding learning. The appropriate time-management during lessons, frequent and active breaks, games, and the use of visual materials is important to stimulate learning in pre-school and primary school children.
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The practices associated with the integrated approach are also effective to encourage children’s learning because the discussed strategies and activities stimulate communication between an educator and children, as well as between different groups of students. As a result, children receive an opportunity to develop their communication and language skills, improve abilities to perform creative tasks, and develop skills in literacy and numeracy (Council of Australian Governments, 2010). Also, these practices are important to increase the students’ motivation to learn and broaden their views.
Much attention should be paid to the role of practices used in the context of the inclusive approach to stimulate children’s learning. According to Kemp et al. (2013), those children with disabilities who study in the inclusive environment are inclined to demonstrate the higher results in learning than those children who are taught in separate groups. Furthermore, Bentley-Williams and Morgan (2013) state that inclusive classes are effective to help children in developing their communication and social skills. Hung (2015) also supports the idea that inclusive environments are good for English learners because they demonstrate the higher results in language acquisition when they have an opportunity to communicate with native speakers regularly and participate in group activities. Therefore, the practices proposed to stimulate interaction in the class and address different students’ needs can have positive effects on children’s learning and experiences.
Appraisal of Teaching Approaches
Even though the discussed approaches, strategies, and practices are selected with the focus on the theoretical background and concerning evidence regarding the best teaching practices, it is possible to identify both strengths and weaknesses in the presented philosophy of teaching and selected methods. It is important to state that the focus on the child-centered approach is effective to be used in early childhood education because it is supported concerning developmental theories (Council of Australian Governments, 2010). As a result, the proposed strategies and practices can be discussed as age or developmentally appropriate ones.
Furthermore, the focus on the inclusive approach and associated strategies is also a strength of the teacher’s style and practice because it provides an opportunity to develop as a reflective teacher who can respect diversity and address different students’ needs and interests (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2014c). Also, the created environment can be discussed as positive, motivational, and focused on child-centered activities. The varied instructions and materials are used to address different students’ needs.
However, to cover needs of students with different ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds, it is relevant to apply the principles of the multicultural approach because the inclusive approach is more oriented to the work with children with disabilities and special needs in the learning process, and more effective practices for culturally diverse students can be proposed concerning the multicultural and multilingual approach.
The number of ethnicities living in Australia is significant, and it is important to provide all children with equal opportunities to develop their potential (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2014c). Therefore, more attention should be paid to developing the teacher’s skills in proposing effective multicultural and multilingual strategies and practices in the classroom (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2014b). From this perspective, the improvement of professional knowledge and skills regarding the implementation of the multicultural and multilingual approach is one of the areas for further development. It is important to concentrate on preparing tasks for culturally and linguistically diverse students and improve skills in using more than one language during lessons.
Also, it is possible to support the use of the integrated approach to the curriculum in some lessons by the multiple intelligences approach and associated practices. To guarantee that all children realize their potential to learn the material and develop different skills, it is important to provide them with opportunities to develop their linguistic, mathematical, music, interpersonal, and other intelligence in the most efficient manner. From this point, even if the integrated approach is effectively adapted for the proposed lessons, the teacher should also focus on developing students’ multiple intelligences, as it is proposed according to Gardner’s theory (Arthur et al., 2014).
Therefore, the second area for professional development is the work on applying the multiple intelligences approach to the daily teaching practice. The third important area is communication with parents and families. Although the regular interaction with parents is effectively monitored at the current stage to guarantee that all children develop their skills and feel comfortable in the class, the focus on additional approaches makes the educator pay more attention to improving the interaction with families to develop the partnerships and stimulate children’s development (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2016).
Personal Development Plan
To address the identified areas for further professional growth, it is important to create a personal development plan which aim is to schedule specific activities to achieve the set goals. One main goal and three associated objectives are determined for the personal development plan. The activities to achieve them and periods are stated concerning the teacher’s needs and availability of resources (Table 1).
Table 1. Personal Development Plan.
|Personal and Professional Development Goal||To enhance the professional competencies in working with diverse and multilingual students, developing their multiple intelligences, and cooperating with parents.|
|Objectives||Strategies and Activities||Resources||Time Frame||Indicators of Success|
|1. By the end of three months, be able to work with diverse children in terms of providing varied tasks and multilingual instructions.||1. Read about different cultures. |
2. Communicate with families.
3. Determine activities that are most effective for different groups of students.
4. Attend the conference on the issue of diversity.
5. Communicate with professionals in multilingual education.
6. Prepare multilingual instructions.
|1. Books, reports, journal articles. |
2. Access to the Internet.
3. Meetings with parents and educators.
4. Financial resources to attend a conference.
|1. October 2016. |
2. October-December 2016.
3. October-November 2016.
4. October 2016.
5. November 2016.
6. November 2016.
|Improvements in the learning of culturally and linguistically diverse students.|
|2. By the end of three months, be able to contribute to developing students’ multiple intelligences in terms of improving their results in literacy, numeracy, science, and music among other areas.||1. Read the material regarding the multiple intelligences approach. |
2. Communicate with professionals who use this approach.
3. Prepare materials to be used during lessons.
4. Implement the approach.
|1. Books, journal articles, online sources. |
2. Meetings with educators.
|1. October-November 2016. |
2. November 2016.
3. November 2016.
4. December 2016.
|Students will improve their results in literacy, numeracy, science, and music among other areas.|
|3. By the end of two months, improve the interaction with parents and families while involving them in a teaching-learning process.||1. Conduct regular meetings with parents. |
2. Communicate with families with the help of e-mail and notes.
3. Invite parents who are representatives of different cultures and professions to participate in lessons.
|1. Meetings with parents and families. |
2. Access to the Internet.
3. The curriculum or plan for lessons to schedule students’ meetings with parents.
|1. October-November 2016 (continue after two months). |
2. October-November 2016 (continue after two months).
3. November 2016.
|Improvements in the educator’s interaction with parents.|
The personal development plan is created with the focus on proposing activities and strategies to complete three main objectives associated with the gaps identified during the appraisal of the teaching practice based on the implementation of child-centered, integrated, and inclusive approaches. The activities are supported by a list of resources required to achieve the objectives. The plan demonstrates how a teacher can benefit from researching the literature related to the problem, communicating with professionals, attending conferences, and interacting with parents.
The paper presents a detailed discussion of the used curriculum approaches with the focus on teaching strategies and classroom practices. The details are provided regarding the child-centered, integrated, and inclusive approaches, and the discussion is supported by examples. It is possible to state that the choice of these approaches is explained concerning three theoretical perspectives, including developmental, socio-cultural, and socio-behaviorist theories. The expected consequences of applying these approaches to practice are also discussed in detail. Much attention is paid to evaluating the appropriateness of the proposed teaching strategy and creating a personal development plan that should be effective to address the identified gaps in the approach and enhance the teacher’s competencies.
Arthur, L., Beecher, B., & Death, E. (2014). Programming and planning in early childhood settings. Sydney, Australia: Cengage Learning.
Bentley-Williams, R., & Morgan, J. (2013). Inclusive education: Pre-service teachers’ reflexive learning on diversity and their challenging role. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 41(2), 173-185.
Council of Australian Governments. (2010). Belonging, being, and becoming: Educators’ Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Web.
Hung, H. T. (2015). Flipping the classroom for English language learners to foster active learning. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 28(1), 81-96.
Kemp, C., Kishida, Y., Carter, M., & Sweller, N. (2013). The effect of activity type on the engagement and interaction of young children with disabilities in inclusive childcare settings. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(1), 134-143.
Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2014a). Children with disabilities: Planning adjustments. Web.
Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2014b). English as an additional language. Web.
Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2014c). Inclusion in the early years. Web.
Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2016). Engaged parents. Web.